30 Housekeeping Duties: Chore list & phrases with their meaning and examples


housekeeping duties

Household chores are the things you have to do at home every day or every week to keep your house looking nice and clean.

Household chores aren’t always fun but, someone needs to do them.

Here are 30 of the most common household chore vocabulary and phrases used in everyday English. Each word or phrase is explained in easy to understand English and includes example sentences and conversations for you to practice by yourself, or with a friend.

There’s also a quiz at the end to test yourself. Good luck!

Can you think of any other household chores which aren’t on the list?

Let us know in the comment section below.

Our list of household chores words and phrases:

  1. Broom
  2. Bleach
  3. Check the mail
  4. Cleaning spray
  5. Clean off/clear the table
  6. Clean up __ room
  7. Detergent
  8. Do ironing
  9. Do laundry
  10. Do the washing up
  11. Dry up
  12. Dust
  13. Fix up the (apartment/house/flat)
  14. Hang the washing
  15. Hang the clothes up
  16. Load the dishwasher
  17. Household Chore
  18. Make breakfast/lunch/dinner
  19. Make the bed
  20. Mop the floor
  21. Mow the lawn
  22. Polish the furniture
  23. Put away
  24. Scrub
  25. Set the table
  26. Sweep the floor
  27. Take out the rubbish/garbage/trash
  28. Tidy up
  29. Vacuum
  30. Wash down the walls
  31. Self-Quiz

1. Broom

A tool used for sweeping the floor. A broom looks like a large brush on a stick that you can use to move dust, dirt or other dry material from the floor.

  • Could you get the broom out of the cupboard?
  • This broom is getting really old. Let’s buy a new one.


Sarah: Mum, Jason dropped his milk.  Can you help?

Mom: Can you ask your brother to clean it up?

Sarah: He did. He tried to use a broom to clean it up, but it didn’t work.

Mom: You can’t clean up milk with a broom! You need a sponge.

2. Bleach

A strong cleaning liquid often mixed with water and used in bathrooms and kitchens to kill germs. Be careful with bleach. If you get any on your clothes it will take out all the color.

  • Never use bleach on a carpet unless you want your carpet to be white!
  • Bleach is dangerous if you drink it. Keep it away from children.


John: Oh no! I spilled red wine on my white shirt!

Susan: That’s ok. You can get the wine out with a little bleach.

John: Oh great! How do I do that?

Susan: Mix one cup of bleach into a bucket of hot water and leave your shirt in it overnight.

John: That’s easy. I’ll try that tonight.

3. Check the mail

To see if any letters or packages have arrived in the post.

  • Steve hasn’t checked his mail in weeks.
  • Checking the mail is never fun. It’s only bills and adverts.


Marge: Honey, can you go check the mail, please?

Homer: I already did, but we have a problem.

Marge: Why? Did we get a bill in the post?

Homer: I don’t know because the dog ate all the letters!

4. Cleaning spray

A cleaning spray is a chemical liquid you spray on something to kill germs and remove dirt, oil and dirty things.

  • Windex is one of the most famous cleaning sprays in the world.
  • Could you use the cleaning spray on the sink? It’s getting dirty.


Jacky: Nick, could you pick up some cleaning spray from the supermarket?

Nick: Sure Jacky. Which one would you like?

Jacky: Please get the spray that smells like Jasmine flowers.

5. Clean off/clear the table

To take away the plates and other items from the dining room table after you finish eating.

  • If you don’t clean off the table, ants will come and eat your leftovers.
  • Let’s clear the table so we have space to play poker.


Mom: I cooked tonight, so can you boys clean up for me?

Dad: Sure. Timmy and I can do it together.

Timmy: Ok dad! I’ll start by clearing the table.

Mom: Thank you boys. I’m going to go relax.

6. Clean up ___ room

To clean up your room means to both tidy AND clean an area. It includes things like putting away clothes, vacuuming, dusting, mopping, and wiping down any dirty areas.

  • Every afternoon I spend about two hours cleaning up my kid’s rooms.
  • John was annoyed at his roommate for never cleaning up his room.


Jones: Your room is such a mess! There are clothes and pizza boxes everywhere!

Billy: Yeah, I’m too lazy to clean up the room every time someone comes over.

Jones: Well, from now on let’s meet at my place. At least it’s clean.

7. Detergent

Detergent is a liquid soap used for cleaning things. There are different kinds of detergent with different uses, ie: dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent.

  • Could you pick up some laundry detergent from the store?
  • I love the dishwashing detergent that smells like lemon. It makes everything feel clean.


Adam: How much laundry detergent should I use?

Eve: You only need to use one cup. Any more and you’ll fill the house with bubbles!

Adam: That actually sounds like fun.

8. Do ironing

To use a hot iron to get wrinkles out of shirts and pants.

  • My dad likes to do his own ironing. There’s a special way he does it.
  • If you work in an office you need to do ironing at least once a week.


Carla: I have got such much ironing to do.

Ash: Why not bring it to the dry cleaners to do it for you?

Carla: I can’t afford it. That would cost me more than $100!

9. Do laundry

To wash and dry clothes.

  • I need to do laundry. I don’t have any clean socks left.
  • I’m terrible at doing laundry. I always use too much laundry detergent.


Tony: My wife is so angry at me right now.

Pete: Really? Why?

Tony: I put my red underwear in the laundry with her white clothes. Now everything is pink!

Pete: Of course she’s angry! She’ll probably never let you do the laundry again.

10. Do the washing up

To clean the plates, glasses, cutlery and other items used to cook and eat or drink.

  • Mom usually cooks and dad does the washing up in our house.
  • I don’t use a lot of pots when I cook because I hate doing the washing up afterward.


Noddy: Who does the washing up in your house cliff?

Cliff: Nobody. We have a dishwasher to do it for us.

Noddy: Oh I’m jealous. I need to get one too.

11. Dry up

To dry up means to dry the dishes, glasses, cutlery and other items used for cooking or eating food.

  • You don’t need to do the drying up. Just leave the plates in the rack.
  • When you have a dishwasher there’s no drying up to do. The machine does it.


Hugh: Jen, could you help me dry up some of these plates please?

Jennifer: Sure Hugh. Where do you keep your tea towels?

Hugh: Thanks. They’re just above the oven over there.

12. Dust

Dust is both a noun and a verb. As a verb, to dust, means to clean and get rid of dust (noun) in the house. Dust looks like dirt colored powder you find everywhere in your house if you don’t clean.

  •  Joe, did you know that dust was made mostly from dead skin cells?
  • It’s common for many people to have dust


Chris: My friend just told me that teddy’s and books collect dust. Did you know that?

Kurt: Really? No wonder my kid’s room collects so much dust even when I dust it weekly.

13. Fix up the _____ (house/apartment/room/etc)

It can mean two things. 1. To repair something. 2. To make something look nice.

  • My parents are coming over tonight so we have to fix up the house for them.
  • Fix up this room young man. It looks terrible.


Mel: I would really like to fix up this place when we have some more money.

Diana: That would be nice. What would you do first?

Mel: I would start with some new paint to make it look fresh.

14. Hang the washing

To put washed clothes somewhere to dry.

  • Don’t hang out the washing yet, it looks like it might rain.
  • You can’t hang the washing outside in winter. It will freeze.


Teacher: Who can tell me the benefit of a clothes dryer?

Student: It dries the washing faster than when you hang it out.

Teacher: That’s true. But also when you hang the washing in the sun to dry, the colors fade. The dryer doesn’t make colors fade.

15. Hang the clothes up

To place the items you wear on a hook or a hanger. Used to keep clothes’ shape.

  • A friend of mine would hang up all of his clothes. Even his socks!
  • I always separate my clothes by color when hanging them up.


Mom: Alex! Come here and hang your clothes up. They’re all over the floor.

Alex: Why? I know where they are.

Mom: If you don’t hang them up right now, I’ll give them away to someone who will at least take care of them.

Alex: Ok. Ok. I’m coming.

16. Load the dishwasher

To load the dishwasher is to put all of the dirty plates, glasses, pots, pans and other kitchen items used for cooking and eating into the dishwasher. Opposite: Empty the dishwasher.

  • My grandfather always forgets to load the dishwasher before turning it on.
  • I never have to do the washing up. I just load the dishwasher.


Vick: We never used a dishwasher at home.

Alice: Why? Didn’t you have one?

Vick: We had one. But mom was too lazy to load the dishwasher and then take it all out again.

17. Household Chore

A household chore is something that needs to be done around the house as a part of daily life. For example: cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, etc.

  • I hate doing household chores. I wish I could pay someone to do them for me.
  • My parents used to give me pocket money for helping with household chores.


Mary: Hi Peter. I heard you hired someone to help your mom at home. How’s that going?

Peter: Hi Mary. Yes, I hired a maid to help her with household chores. She’s getting too old to do things herself.

Mary: That’s nice. What kind of household chores does the maid help her with?

Peter: Things like going shopping, taking out the trash, dusting and cleaning the house.

18. Make breakfast/lunch/dinner

To cook or prepare food for that meal.

  • Mum taught us to make our own breakfast from a very young age.
  • Who’s making dinner tonight? You, or me?


Tom: Do you want to go out for lunch?

Harry: Nah. I need to save money. I’d rather make lunch at home.

Tom: Good idea. I’ve started making my own dinners for the same reason.

19. Make the bed

To make the bed means to pull up the sheets and covers so they are tidy and look nice.

  • Did you make your bed when you were younger? How about now?
  • My daughter loves how they make the bed for you in hotels.


Matt: Do you make your bed every morning?

Yvonne: Yes of course! Don’t you?

Matt: No. I don’t see the point. You’re just going to get in it at night again.

Yvonne: That’s not the point. It’s about making everything look nice and tidy.

20. Mop the floor

A mop is a floor cleaning tool used with water and often chemicals to clean the floors. To mop the floor is to use the mop to clean the floor.

  • In Europe, most people use chemicals when they mop the floor.
  • But, in Thailand they only use water when mopping the floor.


Chef: We all start our careers mopping kitchen floors, mate.

Kitchenhand: You mean to say that YOU used to mop floors?

Chef: I did! It took me 2 years before my boss even let me dice a carrot.

21. Mow the lawn

To use a special machine – called a lawn mower – to cut grass.

  • Many kids make pocket money by mowing people’s lawns.
  • We need to mow the lawn. It’s so high I can’t find the mailbox!


Jeb: We should start a lawn mowing business.

George: What makes you say that?

Jeb: Alex started one last year and has already made double what he made at the factory.

George: Wow. That’s amazing. Maybe we SHOULD start mowing lawns for money.

22. Polish the furniture

To polish means wiping something to make it shiny and bright. When you polish furniture, it’s often wood or metal. It’s when you wipe the furniture to make it shiny.

  • The store owner paid attention to every detail, polishing each piece of
  • If you use bee wax to polish your wooden furniture it will help it last longer.


Sonya: The metal feet on my armchair are looking old. Could you suggest a product that’s good for polishing furniture?

Store clerk: Yes ma’am. We have different kinds of metal furniture polish that would work.

23. Put away ______

To put something back in the place it should be. Ie the bookcase, toy box, or a drawer.

  • Now children, put away your It’s time for dinner.
  • The librarian’s job is to organize returns and put away the books in the right place.


Jill: The dishes and cups are dry. Could you help me put them away, Jack?

Jack: Happy to help, Jill. Where do the cups go?

Jill: You can put them away in that cupboard next to you.

24. Scrub

To use force and wipe something hard to clean it. Often done with a brush or hard sponge.

  • Those cleaners I hired are great. They even scrubbed the toilet.
  • I like to scrub in between the bathroom tiles once every six months to keep them clean.


Sarah: Do you know how to get rid of mold around sink taps?

Harley: I usually use some bleach and scrub it with a toothbrush.

Sarah: A toothbrush?! But, can you use it after scrubbing the sink with it?

Harley: No! Of course not. I use an old toothbrush that I only use for cleaning.

25. Set the table

To place the things that you will use for a meal on the dining room table, in their proper places. For example plates, spoons, forks, knives.

  •  Son, can you set the table while mommy finishes cooking?
  • The way they set the table in a restaurant is much different than in Burger King.


Jan: I always forget. When setting the table, where does the salad fork go?

Emily: It goes on the left side of main course fork.

Jan: How to you know which is which?

Emily: The salad fork is smaller. So, set the table with the biggest fork closest to the plate.

26. Sweep the floor

To use a broom to move dirt, leaves, or anything small that you don’t want on the floor, away. For example, broken glass.

  • We have to sweep the shop floor before going home tonight.
  • It’s good to sweep the floor before mopping it.


Steve: What’s on the to-do list that mom left for us?

Russel: It says that she wants us to buy milk, walk the dog, and sweep the floor.

Steve: Ok. I’ll take the dog for a walk down to the corner shop to buy milk. How about you sweep the floor while I’m gone?

27. Take out the rubbish/garbage/trash

To take the things you throw away outside, ready for the city to pick up. In England, they call the things you throw away rubbish or garbage. In America, they call it trash.

  • Honey, could you take out the garbage after dinner tonight?
  • My mom makes me walk the dog and take out the trash every day.


Matt: Hey Chan, did you remember to take the rubbish out last night?

Chan: I totally forgot. So sorry.

Matt: Oh no! The garbage man came this morning. They won’t be back until Monday.

Chan: That’s ok. It’s mostly paper and plastic anyway.

28. Tidy up

To put everything in the place where it should be. To make things more organized.

  • We need to tidy up this mess before my parents come home.
  • Remember to tidy up the garage when you’re finished in there.


Casey: Would your parents let us have Joey’s birthday at your house?

Candice: They should be fine with it. As long as we promise to tidy up afterward.

Casey: Of course we will. Jono, Sarah and I can tidy up after everyone goes home.

29. Vacuum

As a verb, it means to use a machine to suck up dirt, dust and other loose items off the floor. The noun “vacuum” is the machine which is used to suck up dirt, dust and small loose items.

  • You can’t vacuum up spilled milk! That will break the vacuum!
  • Sweeping works great for flat floors, but carpets need to be vacuumed.


Monica: Could you remind me to vacuum the living room this afternoon?

Phoebe: Ok. Why don’t you leave the vacuum out to remind you?

Monica: Great idea. I leave it by the door. So when I come home I’ll remember to vacuum.

30. Wash down the walls

To wash down the walls means to use a wet sponge or piece of material to wipe and clean the walls.

  • You can’t wash down some walls. Like when they have wallpaper on them.
  • Don’t use too much water when you wash down the walls or it will damage them.


Evan: The chef said that he wants us to wash down the walls in the kitchen today.

Pratt: That’s going to take us hours. They’re really dirty!

Self-Test Quiz

See how much you know. Check your answers at the bottom of this article.

Complete the sentences below with the best answer:

  1. It’s my little brother’s job to _________ the table before dinner with cutlery, plates, and glasses.
    A. set
    B. clear
    C. dust


  1. Please __________ while I’m gone. The kids drew all over them this morning.
    A. dust
    B. mow the lawn
    C. wash down the walls


  1. I usually stay home on Sundays to _____________. I like to have all my clothes ready for Monday.
    A. do the ironing
    B. to the drying up
    C. detergent


  1. Remember to _______________ today. The garbage truck is coming by tomorrow morning.
    A. hang the clothes up
    B. do the laundry
    C. take out the trash


How do you think you did in the test? Did you get everything right? Here are the answers for you:

1.A         2.C         3.A        4.C


What was your score?

0 Correct: 0%

1 Correct: 25%

2 Correct 50%

3 Correct: 75%

4 Correct: 100%

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